ABUIABACGAAg_9eItQUo1aXLvAcwyAE4jgI

黄寄波(Bob Huang)

●汕头市比噢比(BOB)外语职业培训学校校长

●汕头市比噢比(BOB)中英文双语教育培训中心校长

●北京大学哲学系乾元国学研修生

北京师范大学教育经济与管理博士课程研究生

●香港浸会大学工商管理硕士(MBA)

●华南师范大学文学学士

●广东第二师范学院外语系英语专业本科毕业

A Study on Teacher as an Anchor in an Interactive English Class

文章附图

Background of the Study


Although much has been done in the research of interactive English class, the cramming teaching method with teacher’s monologue instead of teacher-student’s dialogue still prevails in most of the English classes in mainland China. Theory sometimes goes too far away and forgets to pause at the reality. The purpose of this study is to probe the applicability and effectiveness of the interactive English class mode in which the teacher acts like a talk show anchor conducting the streams of dialogues between the teacher and students individually or collectively. The teacher is expected to contrive bunches of meaningful and relevant (Slavin, 2003) questions to help students construct knowledge and develop multi-skills. The study focus its research population on the middle school students and frames its field research within the extracurricular training school, in that students, who are undergoing Piaget’s formal operational stage (Berk, 2004) but have very few chances to open their mouths in the big-size class in public middle school, can be exposed to a small-size class and communicative context in the extracurricular counterpart. Also, a limitation of this study is that only teacher-student interaction is to be under investigation and that student peer interaction will not be discussed in the research, the reason of which is that this mode of teacher as an anchor in an interactive class highlights a teacher’s steering and anchoring function as an initiator and sustainer in keeping the students from falling prey to tangential chitchat and other behavior that is off-course from the class objectives. (Brown, 2001)

       

Therefore, the applicability and effectiveness of this mode of interactive class fall on the teacher’s performance, the students’ responses and the dialogic way to help develop their multi-skills in each and every class, all of which form the framework of this study.

       

Action research will be chosen for this study, in which interviewing method and observational method of qualitative research are to be conducted for examining the teacher and the students’ performance in class, and questionnaire method and evaluation of quantitative research are to be implemented to measure students’ multi-effective outcome.

       

The expected outcome of this study is that the empirical interactive class mode to be discussed will bear an optimal policy on students’ learning style and teachers’ professional development when theoretically grounded.



Relevant Literature


Role of the Teacher and as in a Communicative Context


According to Bruce J. Biddle (1997), the teacher role can be interpreted into three major concepts: role as social position, role as characteristic behaviors and role as expectations. Studies of role as social position “have focused on newer activities or functions that have appeared for teachers, and also note problems that teachers have experienced in occupying those ‘roles’”(Biddle, 1997, p.507). To what extent a teacher’s traditional ‘centralized authority’ in the classroom should be decentralized and to what extent teachers would accept learning and schools can afford new technology to help students learn to take charge of their own learning. These are also questions that confront the teachers and researchers in mainland China today. Authors of characteristic behaviors believe that teacher behaviors are existential events that can be observed directly, but that classroom events are very complex, and many of their most striking effects are context-specific. (Biddle, 1997) Thus, observational research in classroom in which the details of teacher behavior are noted by use of audio and video recordings will prove an efficient way in this study, though expensive then in 1980s, but available and convenient in extracurricular training schools nowadays. Authors who follow Biddle’s role as expectation ‘tend to view teachers (and those with whom they interact) as persons capable of rational, reflective thought. Role expectations for teachers are thought to be learned through experience and, once they are formed, to affect the behaviors of those who hold them in predictable ways.’(Biddle, 1997, p.502) This third concept will strongly underpin the fact that a teacher, in an interactive class or communicative context in this study, can learn to be an ‘anchor’ through teaching experience instead of receiving special training to be an anchor.


To narrow the scope of the literature to the role of the teacher in a communicative class, most authors hold the concept of the role of the teacher as a facilitator of students’ learning rather than a director or merely an instructor. (Breen & Candlin, 1980; Brown, 2001; Littlewood, 1981; Liu, Liu & Lin, 2004; Richards & Rodgers 2008) Littlewood (1981) classifies a variety of specific roles a teacher may need to perform, as general overseer, as classroom manager, as language instructor, as non-intervener in communicative activity, as consultant or adviser and as co-communicator. Liu et al. (2004) further define the teacher as organizer, assessor, prompter, participant, resource, controller or psychologist. The teacher acting like a talk show anchor in class in this study may alternatively play the roles just cited in different teaching activities. However, more importantly and artistically, he is supposed to play a role as a ‘talk-show anchor’, who develops proper classroom atmosphere from the first day (Rivers 1997) in which students feel relaxed and talkative to be his ‘gusts’. He is also supposed to design topics for each of the five sections: vocabulary, grammar, text, extended drills and exercises, about which students are stimulated to keep on talking. All and all, he is highly expected to fulfill, with the role awareness of a talk-show anchor through the whole class, the task of facilitating the students’ acquisition process of the language knowledge and maximizing the development of their language skills.


Students’ Psychological State and Role in a Communicative Context


In mainland China, middle school has two stages, junior stage (grades 7–9, some places are grades 6–9) and senior stage (grades 10–12). Middle school students, aged from around 12 to around 18, according to Piaget, are undergoing the formal operational stage, in which they develop the capacity for abstract, scientific thinking. (Berk 2004, p.552) Two of the consequences of abstract thoughts are self-consciousness in which young teenagers regard themselves as always on stage and go great lengths to avoid embarrassment, and self-focusing in which they feel that they are special and unique. (Berk 2004, p559) In language development, subtle but important changes take place in adolescence. Their improved capacity for reflective thought and abstraction enhances their ability to think about language as a system. Abstract thinking also permits adolescents to master irony and sarcasm. Figurative language is better grasped, and more elaborate grammatical constructions – long sentences that consist of a greater number of subordinate clauses. (Berk 2004, p.564) This psychological state of the adolescents and their language development which takes place in the first language learning, yet may likely have a familiar aptitude in second language learning, determine the colorfulness of learners’ role in the talk-show like class in this study. To be a ‘honored gust’ in the setting of a classroom, they have no stage fright to risk, but have many chances to express themselves. In the teacher-student interaction, the learner is more a negotiator (Breen & Candlin, 1980) with the teacher than one with their peers. This may generate competition rather than collaboration. But more often than not, they have to work together to give responses to the teacher’s questions. Both these competitions and collaborations will do them good in their personal growth. Nunan (1989) concludes that a learner is involved in a social activity, and the social and interpersonal roles of the learner cannot be divorced from psychological learning processes. Richards and Rodgers (2008) worry that the cooperative (rather than individualistic) approach to learning stressed in communicative language teaching may be unfamiliar to learners. ‘Often there is no text, grammar rules are not presented, classroom arrangement is nonstandard, students are expected to interact primarily with each other rather than with the teacher, and correction of errors may be absent or infrequent.’ (p.166) Nevertheless in the teacher-anchored interactive class in this study, text, grammar, vocabulary and exercises all become topics, under which learners are stimulated to speak out freely without any less initiatives and with many chances to develop an identity (Berk 2004) in class.


Questioning Skills in Developing Multi-skills in Stratified Topic-based Teaching

     

The constructive view of learning emphasizes the teacher’s giving students ladders that lead to higher understanding and the must of students’ climbing these ladders by themselves (Slavin, 2003). Ladders in the teacher-anchored interactive class in this study are the questions the teacher designs strategically and skillfully under one topic after another. In the topic-based teaching, students’ language skills are enhanced through focal attention to topic, and peripheral attention to language. (Brown, 2001)

       

Literature of questioning techniques and strategies is huge. Most authors agree that questions can be classified as either lower-order or higher-order (Borich, 2000; Brown, 2001; Gall & Artero-Boname, 1995; Ornstein, & Thomas, 2004), and that both categories should combine in an appropriate ratio. In the teacher-anchored interactive class in this study, rote repetition in lockstep always provides necessary stepping stones to the ladders or scaffoldings of lower-order questions and all the way to higher-order ones. Rote repetition is necessary in class here in mainland China because English is a language that students do not often hear outside the walls of their classroom. Both lower-order and higher-order questions will be posed in line with the relevance principle of effort and effect (Sperber & Wilson, 2001). ‘Holistic practice’ (Richards & Rodgers, 2008) is implemented in which phonetic, syntactic and semantic stumbling blocks are moved away by questioning and answering (Q-A) under topics to pave the way to Slavin’s ladders. Rote repetition, low-order questioning and high-order questioning all go through a process of ‘whole-part-whole’ (to be discussed in methodology). Students’ confidence is thus gained and intrinsic motivation (Brown, 2001) (which serves as the norm of this study) builds up.


Methodology


Research Questions


This study attempts to probe the applicability and effectiveness of the mode of teacher as an anchor in an interactive class. Three research questions are raised:

      RQ1: What questioning skills does the teacher display and develop in class?

      RQ2: How do students build up intrinsic motivation through responses?

      RQ3: How does the Q-A help develop students’ multi-skills?


Participants

     

The class size will range from 12 to 25 students. Participants include teachers experienced from one to ten years teaching, who are full-time teachers in the extracurricular training school and, students of different levels from junior and senior middle schools, but at the same time study in the same extracurricular training school at weekends and during summer and winter vacations.

Instrumentation

     

Field-notes from memory Teachers will be instructed to make field-notes from memory. Fixed field-note format will be delivered to teachers and collected weekly and filed by the researcher. Besides the basic information as Date & Time, Class, Number present, Absentees, Work done, Punishments issued, Homework given (Wallace, 1998), the field-notes will mainly record the expected effect and improvisational achievements in questioning, the successful performance or at a loss in students’ responses, the striking progress or problematic issues in students’ multi-skill development, in short, any critical incidents (Wallace, 1998) in Q-A process in class closely related to the three research questions.

     

Video and audio techniques Spot classes will be video-recorded for appraisal. Audio recording will be carried out for sampling classes mainly for measuring the teacher and the students’ speaking time and the distribution of the questions in class.

     

Interview & Questionnaires Group interview will be conducted among the teachers for sharing with each other what they achieve and what they fail to achieve in class. The researcher, as the teachers’ colleague, will take notes when this brainstorming goes on. Individual interview will be put into effect for collecting students’ feedback on how they like or dislike the class. Questionnaire will be carefully designed for collecting data periodically on students’ intrinsic motivation improvement.

     

Examination of existing documents Students’ progresses in extracurricular training school can be surveyed through what they do in their exams in the public schools. Because of this, examination of the students’ exam papers will provide the reliable data on students’ development of their multi-skills. A copy of each exam paper will be made for every student on file to follow the track of the student’s multi-skill development.

Procedures


Video-recorded and audio-recorded data collected from the competition and the sampling class will be surveyed by checking the list as in Table 1 and Table 2. The teachers’ field-notes will provide evidences to and the group interviews in semi-structure will comment on stratified topic-based approach and the whole-part-whole principle. New ideas or issues will be noted and rewarded and classified into two categories: those that can be served as sub-skills and those to be further investigated.

(A Stratified Topic-approach is that dialogues run under one topic after another on a text, a paragraph, a sentence, a grammar point or even a single word.  These topics are generated based upon students’ life experience, previous knowledge and interested subjects.


A Whole-Part-Whole principle is that when anything appears, no matter a text, a paragraph or a sentence, it appears as a whole by rote repetition practice; then it is deconstructed into parts for discussion; at last it will regress into its whole, this time, by rote repetition practice again or by a wrap-up Q-A.)


Table1. Teachers’ Questioning Skills Observation Dimensions (Tick)


Rote Repetition  Lower-order Q  Higher-order Q  

Topic-based  Whole-Part-Whole

Review Last Lesson


Extensive Text

Intensive Text

Vocabulary

Grammar

Language Points

Extended Ex

(Oral writing Ex)

Ex on text



Table2. Students’ Response Observation Dimensions (Times)


Choral  Solo  Active Q

No Response  Y/N Response  

Short Answer  Long Answer

Rote Repetition



Lower-order QS

Higher-order QS


Students’ questionnaires will focus on the students’ psychological state in class, in which relevance between effort and effect, self-confidence and intrinsic motivation will be checked as the dimensions in Table 3. Sampling student’s individual interviews, also semi-structured, will complement to test and verify some hypotheses.


Table3. Students’ Psychological State in Class (Times)


Choral  Solo  Active Q

No Response  Y/N Response  

School Answer  Long Answer

Relevance (effort/effect)



Self-confidence

Intrinsic Motivation

     

Students’ multi-skill development will be documented by copies of the students’ exam papers in public school correlating to their performance in the extracurricular training school, which will be checked from dimensions in Table 4.


Table4. Q-A in Students’ Multi-skill Development (5-point Likert Scale)


Listening   Speaking   Reading   Writing

Performance

(in extracurricular school)


Exam scores

( in public school)




Data Analysis

     

Raw data sourced from the above-mentioned instrumentation will be transcribed, coded or scored into qualitative or quantitative data for analysis. The FIAC system (Flanders, 1970) will be applied to video and audio data to work out the amount of ‘teacher talk’ as opposed to ‘pupil talk’ (Wallace, 1998). The questionnaire data coding will follow the data reduction process for analysis both by hand and by computer. A 5-point Likert scale will be introduced to rate the students’ achievement both in the extracurricular school and public school. Interview data will be read and judged on the base upon the principles of content analysis (Kippendorff, 2004). Triangular techniques for a holistic view of educational outcomes (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000) will be employed for analyzing the relevance of the variety of variables as shown in Figure 1 and the empirical findings which specify psychological principles and teaching principles relating to these variables.  


Figure 1. Mode of Teacher as an Anchor in an Interactive English Class


Potential Significance of this Study and Possible Outcome

     

Nunan (1998) suggests it is difficult to find approaches which claim not to be communicative. Nevertheless, the dialogic approach investigated in this study is, firstly, characteristic of its one chalk one textbook. This may seem to be a word out of season in the setting of China’s rapid economy growth and her incremental educational input. Unfortunately, the fact is that school condition is still very poor in the vast rural area and rural-urban fringe zone. Secondly, middle school students in mainland China are drastically pressed by their heavy curriculums. Thus, any ideal class mode which consumes too much of the students’ class hours for preparations and management or which will wait and see students to get nurtured and matured for years is simply impossible. The outcome of this multi-effective class mode typical of learning through using is manifest and immediate. Last but not the least, the metaphor of ‘teacher as anchor’ and ‘students as distinguished guests’ in the teacher-anchored interactive class under stratified topics in this study will not only produce fun to the students but also to the teacher himself and will do a plenty of good to his professional development, a problem of which is also very severe in mainland China. In addition, it is forecast that in the years to come, at the stage of compulsory schooling and also in senior high school, oversupply of educational provision will occur in mainland China due to the reduction of school-age population (Kuai & Jiang, 2012). Small size class, which is required in the class mode in this study, will become obtainable.

There is no doubt that English interactive class research has long been an issue in mainland China, but still a large majority of students have fallen victim to the dumb and deaf English. No more research can be too many in this field and this study, by formulating a ‘learning through talk-showing’ mode, will hopefully contribute to reducing the number of sufferers of dumb and deaf English from extracurricular training schools to the public schools in rural areas in mainland China as well.




Reference

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